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Summary:

LG, like many of its fellow manufacturers, is shifting its focus toward Android and away from Windows Mobile. As Microsoft scrambles to churn out the newest version of its mobile operating system, we offer some ideas to get back in the game.

LG says it’s betting heavily on Android to help the handset maker build its smartphone business, a move that contrasts starkly with last year’s vow to make Microsoft’s Windows Mobile its primary operating system. But in doing so, LG joins a small army of fellow manufacturers that have shifted their focus away from Microsoft’s mobile OS — among them HTC , Sony Ericsson, Motorola and Palm — and, with the lone exception of Palm, toward Android. And the revelation comes on the heels of rumors that the launch of Windows Mobile 7 may be pushed back yet again, to 2011.

In the meantime, as the mobile skies continue to darken over Redmond, we’ve compiled a few ideas that could get Microsoft back in the game:

  • Make Windows Mobile free to manufacturers. That’s a strategy our friend Chetan Sharma examined more than a year ago; since then Microsoft has continued to lose market share as open-source OSes gain traction in mobile. Making WinMo free — but not open source — might encourage some manufacturers to at least reconsider moving away from the platform.
  • Acquire (or adopt) another operating system and ditch WinMo. Building a mobile OS from the ground up is a Herculean task, but Microsoft has the deep pockets to pick up a newer platform and throw WinMo on the scrap heap. While rumors of a takeover of RIM seem outrageous given the price tag, Microsoft could pick up Palm’s webOS for substantially less. And while Microsoft has historically feared Linux — upon which webOS is based — it last year began indicating it may be softening its stance regarding open-source software.
  • Build a top-notch app store designed for business users. Consumer-focused mobile app stores have quickly become a kind of Moroccan bazaar where users are confronted with a dizzying number of offerings on the cheap. Microsoft — like RIM — could set its Marketplace for Mobile apart from the crowd by combining high-end enterprise and productivity apps with a small library of the best entertainment titles.
  • Make Windows Mobile 7.0 a worthy competitor with a focus on the enterprise. Mobile malware is sure to cause more problems as the popularity of the iPhone and Android-based devices continues to surge. In addition to making WinMo more user-friendly, Microsoft should position it as an ultra-secure platform designed to ensure the safety of mobile data for high-end executives. To sweeten the deal, maybe it should give out a free golf shirt with every WinMo device sold.

As we’ve said before, it may simply be too late for Windows Mobile to re-emerge as anything but a niche play for a small number of business users. If the gang in Redmond has begun taking mobile seriously, though, it should consider some of these ideas as a way to regain relevance in the increasingly competitive smartphone space.

Related GigaOM Pro Research: As Windows Mobile Stumbles, Which Smartphone OS Will Seize the Lead?

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  1. The Mobile Explorer. Very simply a browser that access back end functions like calls. It would be the reverse of Palm where an OS is the first layer accessed. Facebook would love it!

    The web is the future of mobile, and vice versa. All applications can very simply be widgets or full pages on a surface. I am actually prototyping something akin to this for a demo project, and while I am looking at the iPhone and applications, I consider them to be like web apps with more functionality. That extra step takes less effort, and requires something that MS loves, creating extensions to browser functionality.

    Seriously, a mobile browser that makes calls would be killer. That is Chrome in a nutshell.

  2. Despite what you’ve heard, dinosaurs don’t evolve (into birds, or anything else).

    In my rankings of smartphone OSs and devices (http://brianshall.com/products/rankings), Windows Mobile will never become more than a middling success. Microsoft should buy Palm.

  3. Regarding your second bullet point:

    Microsoft owns Danger, the makers of the Sidekick. Danger is coming out with a new phone that’s said to be BETTER than the Nexus One. I know the code name for it but I’m not telling. It’s starts with a “P”.

    You didn’t hear this from me.

  4. The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs : The very definition of “dinosaur” Wednesday, January 13, 2010

    [...] Here’s an interesting article from GigaOm on Windows Mobile.  It’s titled “How Microsoft Can Get Back Into The Mobile Game.” Let me think about that one.  OK, I thought about it.  I didn’t know they were in [...]

  5. Microsoft needs to create the best mobile operating system to get back in the mobile game.

    MS needs to create a vision for the mobile phone – this needs to be a 5 or 10 year vision – and then execute relentlessly for the next decade accepting nothing less than excellence.

    This is what Apple did and it is what MS needs to do. I’m not suggesting the Vision should be the same – in fact it must be different.

    The important thing is to see the completed puzzle and then put the pieces into place. It will be a long, slow road to make this happen but it is the right way. Microsoft will be behind in the mobile space for a number of years but they can catch up and surpass the competition.

    Microsoft has the resources, but do they have the vision and discipline to make this happen?

  6. The reason is that the danger team is really messing things up. Do you remember when the sidekick went down in Nov 2009? It was the danger team in palo alto. Supposedly, this short guy Jaime Rosenberg leads the group and telling developers things that he has no idea on. Check out the number of developers. They have another cat- Natasha Bock who is trying to recruit developers and she is a joke. Give it one more year and Balmer will pull the plug.

  7. Are you serious? I myself have not been a recent fan of ‘Windows Phone’. Please don’t think that microsoft is sitting back sleeping on all of the major hitters out there. I believe that they will shock everyone when they do eventually release windows mobile 7.

  8. Microsoft is fore front leader in software developments and it has got utmost marketing capability in Global.Definitely it will revive its economic structure .

  9. No, no, no.

    This is a fight to let people have their data everywhere, and seamlessly. So MS should:
    * Make hosted Exchange nearly free. They should have done this years ago. If the don’t, Apps will take all.
    * Expand Exchange to sync personal data (photos, video, work files, etc.)
    * Write Exchange sync into every cell phone OS, or push out better apps than Touchdown.
    * Make the broader data sync work better in WinMo than anywhere else.
    * Yes, make WinMo free.
    * Make their own WinMo phone, like Google is doing, to show how the whole system works when carriers don’t hobble it in one way or another.
    * Have a 2-tier app store. Safe ones are closely vetted by MS. The Wild West part of the store lets anyone screw up their phones (and make WinMo able to identify, quarantine and easily remove badly-performing apps).
    * Buy RingCentral and do Google Voice one better, then integrate it into their phones.

  10. Katie Mansfield Wednesday, January 13, 2010

    Building an OS is not Herculean if you adopt an off-the-shelf Linux kernel, and build on top of it.

    Palm did this with webOS, which is based on Linux. Palm put its proprietary interface on top, and got it to market in a bit over a year, and “boom”, a new phone platform, at a fraction of the cost of Microsoft’s failed efforts.

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